Stop Headway

This sub-forum all discussions about this "lively" subject. All topics that are substantially about helmets will be moved here, if not placed here correctly in the first place.
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EdinburghFixed
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Stop Headway

Postby EdinburghFixed » 18 Jul 2010, 10:45am

Fair warning - if you're not interested in the helmet debate, leave now! :)

Relatively frequently in the arena of bike / public health advocacy the charity Headway rears its head in favour of compulsory legislation (I think the gem "As a society, we owe it to them to protect them as best we can" sums it up nicely).

Just in case there are any cyclists nonchalantly riding about thinking that there are only ~75 head injury deaths a year, which is less than the number of deaths caused by putting on trousers, they always drop a barrage of fearmongering into the mix to ensure that nobody remembers the troubling fact that bare-headed cycling actually *increases* life expectancy.

Needless to say, with 120,000 deaths a year from heart disease and just 75 from cycling, anything which depresses healthy exercise is likely to cause many more deaths than it saves and so I don't think it's unreasonable to describe Headway's campaign against cycling as a serious public health hazard.

They have already managed to champion the UK's first mandatory helmet law which is causing a collapse in child cycling on Jersey*.

It would be good to try and neutralise this, either by getting Headway to adopt a more realistic position (which I think is unlikely as they are a head-injury pressure group, not a public health one) or, failing that, to have some kind of response resource that would serve in the same way that the Bicycle Helmet Research Foundation counters people like the BHSI.

I was thinking of some sort of "Stop Headway" site which debunks their fearmongering in an easily accessible (and referenced) way. (I thought of HeadwaySucks to follow the internet meme, but it's a bit childish!). The ultimate goal would be to have news reporting on Headway press releases include a "Stop Headway" response in the same way that they often get a CTC quote whenever Boris is seen riding bareheaded.

But is it just "wrong" somehow to oppose a well-meaning charity in this way? Would anybody be interested in helping out in any way?

Thoughts welcome.


* this may or may not be true, but I think it's fair to assume the Jersey will follow all other legislations rather than be the exception to a global rule.

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Cunobelin
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Re: Stop Headway

Postby Cunobelin » 18 Jul 2010, 11:17am

Anyone who has been here for a while will know that I am actively pro-choice and hate the emotional blackmail etc that tries to bully people into helmet use.

However I must take exception with you about the BHSI

This may have a pro-helmet stance, but actually offers a lot of information on standards, fit, wear, and the limitations of helmet use.

It discusses rotational injuries, the design problems with modern helmets and has advocates for better design

It is an invaluable source of information on helmets and should be recognised as such.

pwward
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Re: Stop Headway

Postby pwward » 18 Jul 2010, 2:20pm

Headway are a problem yes. A well organised, well funded charity with good intentions and a completely genuine belief they are on the side of 'right'.
One important point to make when debating with them is that by supporting initiatives that reduce cycling many more people will end up head injured. This is because the largest cause of head injuries in Britain (by far) are cerebro-vascular accidents (CVA's or strokes) and the protective effects of cycling (and other forms of regular exercise) against cardio-vascular disease are well established and acknowledged, even by others keen on helmet laws like the BMA.

I have yet to hear their response to this point.

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Re: Stop Headway

Postby downfader » 18 Jul 2010, 2:41pm

I realised how prejudiced Headway were when I emailed them about 2 years back. I got back some weird statement about how "all the facts point to helmets saving lives", and when I corrected them on this (and I'm not "pro" at this argument by any means) I was told they wouldn't enter into a debate on the matter. From Luke Griggs:

The issue of cycle helmets is a divisive one that clearly splits opinion. Our position is based on key peer-reviewed research and expert opinion from leading neurosurgeons, coupled with the commonsense approach that surely wearing a cycle helmet will offer greater protection to one's fragile skull than not wearing one


They are a group effectively ignoring other studies and cherry picking what supports their own beliefs. I know we all do this to a certain extent in life, however doing this in what is seen as any advisory factor can be dangerous and misleading to society.

More from Mr Griggs:
People initially spoke out against seatbelts and motorcycle helmets - but both are now accepted as being invaluable safety aids and neither led to a reduction in use. I do appreciate that cycling is different to car use as it is more recreational than functional, but the argument still stands that we have a duty to reduce risk where we can.


The seatbelt and motorcycle helmet analogy is completely misrepresentative to cycle helmets. There is yet to be any devisive study proving it one way or another. Seatbelts and motorcycle helmets have both been tested to destruction time and time again, and it is perhaps indicative that cycling is not seen as important by the fact that cycle helmets have not.

He and his pressure group also seem to miss the many commuter cyclists (although Mr Griggs himself confessed to cycling).

Now I too am pro-choice but we now have idiots out there spouting that we're anticar and antihelmet just for saying "hold on a sec, lets be pragmatic." Perhaps we should indeed become anticar, lol! After all it is the driver representing the gross proportion of danger - you wouldn't invest in bear repellent if one escapes from the local Zoo. :?

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Cunobelin
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Re: Stop Headway

Postby Cunobelin » 18 Jul 2010, 2:58pm

They also fudge the figures when it suits them - a classic was a "Number 10 Petition" for compulsory helmets which made the claim that:

t is estimated that 90,000 on-road and 100,000 off-road cycling accidents occur every year in the UK, of which a disproportionate number involve children under 16.

Child cyclists in the UK deserve the same protection as those in countries such as USA, Canada and Australia which have introduced compulsory helmet laws for children.

Headway - the brain injury association along with other national charities and the British Medical Association, believe that cycle helmets can save lives and prevent lifelong disability.


When you actually look at the figures in the original paper this is a gross and deliberate misrepresentation of both the figures and the context

When Downfader queried this the reply was that:

The statistic relating to the 90,000 on-road and 100,000 off-road
accidents comes from the following reference: Bicycle Helmets 1 - Does
the dental profession have a role in promoting their use? Chapman HR,
Curran ALM. British Dental Journal 2004;196(9):555-560.


The actual paper stated that :

EPIDEMIOLOGY OF HEAD INJURY AFTER BICYCLE ACCIDENTS
Across all ages in the UK it is estimated that there are 90,000 road-
related and 100,000 off-road cycling accidents per year. Of these
accidents, 100,000 (53%) involved children under 16, suggesting
that children are at greater risk of injury during cycling than adults.
In the UK, there were between 127 and 203 cycling fatalities
per year between 1996 and 2002, of which 70–80% were
caused by traumatic brain injury (TBI).The most recent Gov-
ernment death and serious injury figures2 are summarised in
Table 1. In children under 16, two-thirds of cycle-related deaths
occur in road traffic accidents (RTAs) with the remaining third
occurring whilst the child is cycling off road. The majority of
injuries, however, occur when children are cycling off road3–6
and, of these, traumatic brain injury (TBI) is the most likely to
have long-term consequences.


They have simply quoted the figure for ALL cycle accidents and implied that they are all serious head injuries!

When you actually look at the figures in the paper 100,000 becomes - 150!

Of course 150 accidents in ALL cyclists will be even less if you just count children, and even less still if you look at non- vehicular accidents, probably as few as 20 or 30

If the "evidence" is so strong - why mislead like this

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Re: Stop Headway

Postby downfader » 18 Jul 2010, 5:27pm

Cunobelin wrote:If the "evidence" is so strong - why mislead like this


Makes you wonder if there is an ulterior motive? Do they have links to motor insurance firms, helmet manufacturers, motor lobby groups? Their hardline attitude raises all sorts of questions in my mind. :?

snibgo
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Re: Stop Headway

Postby snibgo » 18 Jul 2010, 8:20pm

Andrew Green MBE, Jersey Deputy and Headway's Chairman, has a son who "suffered a brain injury when he came off his bike, aged nine. Now 30, he will need care and support for the rest of his life." (Source: http://www.headway.org.uk/news/Jersey-v ... ldren.aspx)

downfader
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Re: Stop Headway

Postby downfader » 18 Jul 2010, 8:31pm

snibgo wrote:Andrew Green MBE, Jersey Deputy and Headway's Chairman, has a son who "suffered a brain injury when he came off his bike, aged nine. Now 30, he will need care and support for the rest of his life." (Source: http://www.headway.org.uk/news/Jersey-v ... ldren.aspx)


Freak accident to the temple iirc. Same as happened to the actress Natasha Richardson.

As a kid I used to do a lot of "dangerous" things. I crashed my bike plenty of times, even flipping it over 360 degrees. I fell out of trees, fell down hills.... A young lad in Bishop's Waltham died when he got wrapped up in a rope swing this week. Very tragic, but if we apply the same reasoning as applied to the Green case we'd have to put kids in armour. :?

snibgo
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Re: Stop Headway

Postby snibgo » 18 Jul 2010, 8:55pm

Yes, I'm with you: kids (and adults) need to learn about risks.

But if we are to oppose the "common sense" (their words) of a charity, we need to understand where they are coming from. I suspect most of their people have experience of themselves or loved ones having suffered brain damage. They see what to them is an obvious problem (unprotected heads of cyclists) and an obvious solution (helmets). They think the public is too stupid or uncaring to agree, so the solution must be made compulsory.

If Mr Green's son had suffered brain injury as a car passenger, perhaps Headway would be campaining for something different.

irc
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Re: Stop Headway

Postby irc » 18 Jul 2010, 9:17pm

I think Headway's misleading stats need to be countered with up to date accurate information. For example the most recent DfT study of the benefits of helmets.

http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/roadsafety/re ... ppr446.pdf

"In 2008, 115 pedal cyclists were killed and 2,450 reported as seriously injured on Britain’s roads"

"A forensic case by case review of over 100 British police cyclist fatality reports highlighted that between 10 and 16% of the fatalities reviewed could have been prevented if they had worn a cycle helmet."

These number put in perspective Headways statement that "In the UK, there were between 127 and 203 cycling fatalities
per year between 1996 and 2002, of which 70–80% were
caused by traumatic brain injury (TBI)."

Deaths are already down and helmets would not prevent most head injury deaths anyway.


I don't think compulsion is justified when 100% helmet wearing would save 10-16% of 115 fatalities. Maybe a dozen lives a year out of how many million regular cyclists?

Choose any comparison you like to show how rare fatal bike accidents are where a helmet would matter.
No one believes more firmly than Comrade Napoleon that all animals are equal. He would be only too happy to let you make your decisions for yourselves. But sometimes you might make the wrong decisions, comrades, and then where should we be?

snibgo
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Re: Stop Headway

Postby snibgo » 18 Jul 2010, 10:05pm

16% of 115 is 18.

Yes, but we need to address the serious injuries (such as Mr Green's son) as well as fatalities.

From Headway's point of view: out of 2450 serious injuries, we might assume up to 16% (ie 406) could have been reduced.

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Cunobelin
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Re: Stop Headway

Postby Cunobelin » 18 Jul 2010, 10:19pm

snibgo wrote:16% of 115 is 18.

Yes, but we need to address the serious injuries (such as Mr Green's son) as well as fatalities.

From Headway's point of view: out of 2450 serious injuries, we might assume up to 16% (ie 406) could have been reduced.


Which is the point......

They could save three times that number with pedestrian helmets!

irc
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Re: Stop Headway

Postby irc » 18 Jul 2010, 10:45pm

snibgo wrote:16% of 115 is 18.

Yes, but we need to address the serious injuries (such as Mr Green's son) as well as fatalities.

From Headway's point of view: out of 2450 serious injuries, we might assume up to 16% (ie 406) could have been reduced.


THe Dft report states "Approximately 40% of pedal cyclists admitted to hospital in England suffered head injuries"

So if we assume that all 2450 serious injuries went to hospital then approx 980 had head injuries. If helmets prevented 10% that is 98. Not 406 prevented.

On a UK basis 98 is a small number. There are more murders every year just in Scotland. Nobody is saying helmets do nothing but the risk of as serious head injury which a helmet would have prevented is so low it isn't worth worrying about. It certainly isn't worth criminalising people who choose not to wear them.

As for the Headway chap whose son was injured - surely he could have made his son wear a helmet without being compelled by a law.
No one believes more firmly than Comrade Napoleon that all animals are equal. He would be only too happy to let you make your decisions for yourselves. But sometimes you might make the wrong decisions, comrades, and then where should we be?

snibgo
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Re: Stop Headway

Postby snibgo » 18 Jul 2010, 11:24pm

Unfortunately (from our point of view), the DfT report also says:

Of the on-road serious cyclist casualties admitted to hospital in England (HES database):
• 10% suffered injuries of a type and to a part of the head that a cycle helmet may have mitigated or prevented; and a further
• 20% suffered ‘open wounds to the head’, some of which are likely to have been to a part of the head that a cycle helmet may have mitigated or prevented.

So it might mitigate or prevent 30% of 2450 injuries. Later, it says:
Therefore, if cycle helmets had been worn, a proportion of this 7% may not have required hospital treatment at all.

I don't know what to make of this difference.

Certainly, if we are to counter Headway's arguments, we must point to their alarmist but pointless numbers "90,000 on-road and 100,000 off-road accidents". We must shout that HELMETS DON'T PREVENT ACCIDENTS. We must point to any evidence we have that helmets increase the chances of accidents.

As for the Headway chap whose son was injured - surely he could have made his son wear a helmet without being compelled by a law.

I think his point is that if the law had compelled him, he would have.

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Re: Stop Headway

Postby Phil_Lee » 18 Jul 2010, 11:52pm

irc wrote:I think Headway's misleading stats need to be countered with up to date accurate information. For example the most recent DfT study of the benefits of helmets.

http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/roadsafety/re ... ppr446.pdf

"In 2008, 115 pedal cyclists were killed and 2,450 reported as seriously injured on Britain’s roads"

"A forensic case by case review of over 100 British police cyclist fatality reports highlighted that between 10 and 16% of the fatalities reviewed could have been prevented if they had worn a cycle helmet."

These number put in perspective Headways statement that "In the UK, there were between 127 and 203 cycling fatalities
per year between 1996 and 2002, of which 70–80% were
caused by traumatic brain injury (TBI)."

Deaths are already down and helmets would not prevent most head injury deaths anyway.


I don't think compulsion is justified when 100% helmet wearing would save 10-16% of 115 fatalities. Maybe a dozen lives a year out of how many million regular cyclists?

Choose any comparison you like to show how rare fatal bike accidents are where a helmet would matter.


In order to come up with that figure they had to estimate that helmets would have prevented 50% of those injuries to the parts of the head they covered.
That seems to be a remarkably unscientific method, and roughly comparable with holding a wet finger in the air.
If anything, it could probably be safely regarded as the maximum possible benefit.

Once you insert the necessary words "up to", it's even less impressive.

You could save far more lives by limiting motor vehicles to 20mph in all built up areas.